Opinion

February 15, 2014

Letter: A line has been crossed

Whitfield County Board of Commissioners Chairman Mike Babb’s decision Wednesday to institute a curfew during a winter storm was at best a display of his lack of confidence in the ability of the citizens of Whitfield County to take care of themselves and use common sense.

At worst, it exposes local government’s thinking as to the proper use of its power.

To restrict law-abiding citizens to their property for any period of time under threat of arrest and/or fine is not only insulting but is an intrusion and overreach of power by local government. I myself am perfectly capable of making a decision as to the necessity and risk/reward of driving in hazardous conditions.

Government has a duty to protect its citizens and their property from harm by another citizen.

The government’s role is not to protect a citizen from himself. We are free people with the right to self-determination. A curfew is appropriate when preventing looting after a hurricane when a majority of residents have left the area, not during a winter storm when residents are at home.

I am a responsible, law-abiding, productive citizen, property owner, taxpayer, and voter in this county. However inspiring the phrase ‘for the safety of citizens and responders’ might sound, my personal liberty is not up for argument.

The Whitfield County Board of Commissioners, the Whitfield County Emergency Management Agency, and the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office needs to take heed.

A line has been crossed.

Barry D. Jennings

Cohutta

Mike Babb responds:

Thank you for the opportunity to address the letter from Mr. Jennings.

First I need to correct Mr. Jennings’ implied threat toward taking heed by the Board of Commissioners, the Whitfield County Emergency Management Agency and the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office.

Under the Whitfield County ordinance covering the area of curfews it is the sole decision of the chairman of the board of commissioners to put one in place. The sheriff and the board of commission members did not make the decision. After consultation with the people monitoring the situation and attempting to clear the roads, I did as chairman and under the county approved ordinance issue a limited time curfew. This curfew was put in place to put emphasis on the seriousness of the expected snow after the lull of the afternoon and to give the public works department, public safety and repair crews access to the roads with less traffic for them to contend with.

Mr. Jennings points out that he is perfectly capable of making a decision as to the risk/reward of driving in hazardous conditions. The county would have to share in the risk if the risk factor won. If he traveled and slid into a power pole and was injured in his vehicle during the height of the snow Wednesday night this community has determined that he would not be left alone to suffer the risk of his decision to travel. A policeman or deputy would be dispatched, the fire department would also dispatch a fire engine and crew, the Whitfield County Emergency Medical Service would send an ambulance and attendants, and as had already been done, a public works snow plow would go to help get everyone to the scene.

In order to limit exposure to this type of situation causing excessive costs to the county and safety problems to the responders, a curfew was put in place for what was forecast to be the worst of the event.

It was my decision made within and under the laws of our community, made after consultation with those with the most information as to what the situation was expected to be. Given the same situation and information I would make the same decision again with the expectations that everyone wouldn’t agree (again).  

 

Mike Babb

Chairman, Whitfield County Board of Commissioners

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